26 Mar When Understanding Easter Feels Like Too Much, Maybe the Mystery is Exactly What We Need
It isn’t easy to look at death and see a beginning.
In the Christian tradition of trying to understand and follow Jesus, we pivot around Easter Sunday. We anchor our faith in a story of celebration. And of resurrection. But, honestly…?
This story isn’t easy to believe.
The idea that Jesus could die, be lifelessly sealed in a tomb, and then, on the third day, rise… just like that! It can sound fantastical. Maybe even scary.
And even if we accept that Jesus’ resurrection happened, there’s the question of why does it matter? Why does it matter that this strange phenomenon happened thousands of years ago? And what difference could it possibly make in our lives? Here? Today?
We’ve likely heard the attempts at clear-cut answers. Like, “Jesus died so we’d know that God has power over death.” Yes, the Bible says that’s true. But, often, these “simple” answers simply spark more questions. They can still leave us wondering, “Yeah, but what about the current and very present deaths all around us? What about the losses we’re going through right now?”
Here’s a thought: Maybe we aren’t supposed to totally “get” Easter. Ever. Maybe mystery is an inevitable part of it.
That’s how it was for Jesus’ closest, most trusted followers, right? When his earliest disciples discovered the tomb empty, they were filled with as much confusion, doubt, and concern as belief. So, why wouldn’t that be the same for us? If I’m honest, my understanding of Easter is based far less on what I can know for sure and far more on my willingness to sit with what I can never fully know. And it’s grounded far more in personal experience than in theological concepts.
In the grip of life’s hardest moments, under the aching weight of brokenness and loss, what I can say for certain is that I’ve encountered something inexplicable yet palpable. Something unprovable yet irrefutable. Something that comes when I might least expect it yet when I most need it. Something that allows me to hear God whispering, both from beyond and from deep within: “I… am not done yet.”
My sense is that you’ve encountered this, too. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re hearing God’s whisper right now.
At this moment, so many of us feel buried in the pandemic’s rubble. So many of us feel undone by loss and distance; undone by division and disaster. We can struggle to see how God is working in this story, how love will resurrect us. And that might make the Easter story harder than ever to believe.
But back to mystery… maybe that’s the very reason to move toward this miraculous story.
This Easter, when we’re so aware of the undone-ness in ourselves and in our world, maybe we can come together and simply admit it: “We confess that we are undone, and we can’t see how it all gets put together again.” And maybe we’ll add, in whatever words we can find, or with no words at all, that even though we might not see the way forward… we want to see it. We want to see things restored and made whole. We want to see hope in the places where God is not done yet. We want to hear that whisper and experience the mysterious wonder of whatever God is going to do next.
Let’s come together in all our imperfection and undoneness to remember the story of Jesus, who came, and loved, and suffered as we suffer, whose heart was broken over and over, who died, and mysteriously rose again. And maybe by doing so, we’ll remember that we are a part of the mystery of resurrection, too. That we’re woven into it; and that it’s woven into us. That Jesus promised that those of us who follow him will do even greater things than he did (John 14:12). That a kind word we share, a shoulder we provide, some money we give, a stand for justice we take, an honest conversation we finally have, forgiveness we offer, amends we make – any of these things and so many others, can be great things, can bring new life to the world. Do bring new life to the world.
This Easter, maybe we can come together in the middle of all that is unanswered and uncertain and undone and celebrate a God who isn’t done yet, either. We can take a step, however tentative, right into the mystery that God is still doing things – somehow, someway making new things out of the broken shards of glass that are our lives and our world. Beautiful things. More beautiful than we could hope for and imagine.
Rev. Jeff Braun is the Senior Pastor of Winnetka Congregational Church, a progressive, LGBTQ-inclusive, justice-oriented and family-friendly church on the north side of Chicago. His calling is to share God’s word of love as spoken through Jesus, to make sure that everyone knows they have a seat at the table and to help us all recognize our oneness in God and with all God’s children.